Afrobeats Fresh Picks: Tems, Tyler ICU, Ayra Starr, Rema, Victony, King Promise & More

This year will surely go down as one of the best for full-length albums from some of the best emerging and established talents in African music. Already this year we’ve got projects from Tyla, Tems, Ayra Starr, Ruger x BNXN, Young Jonn, Victony and King Promise, with several of those coming just this past month alone. It’s a lot of great music — and presents some good problems for this column, with so many great options of songs to choose from.

Tems burns bright with soulful reflections about discovering her true destiny while navigating newfound fame, ridding relationships that no longer serve her and more on her debut album Born in the Wild. Meanwhile, Victony expands Afropop’s borders by bringing an international assortment of artists like American rap-rock sensation Teezo Touchdown and Guyanese American rapper SAINt JHN on his first full-length project Stubborn. “It represents overcoming adversity and transforming life’s ‘lemons’ into powerful art,” Victony recently told Billboard. “I hope that when people listen to the album, they feel a sense of shared experience and inspiration to find strength and hope in their own journeys.”

And Tyler ICU and DJ Maphorisa’s scorching new single “Manzi Nte” — which is currently No. 10 onthe South Africa Songs chart (dated June 29) — is inescapable in the artists’ native South Africa. (Billboard‘s senior R&B/Hip-Hop/Afrobeats reporter Heran Mamo can attest to that given her recent travels to Johannesburg.) Meanwhile, Shallipopi turned in a slew of great guest appearances this month, and his features alongside King Promise and Rema both made the list this month, as did the latest loosie from Lil Kesh and a beautiful collaboration between L.A.X and Magicsticks, among others.


We’ve highlighted 10 of our favorite new Afrobeats (and related) songs that have come out roughly within the last month. Check out our latest Fresh Picks, and catch a vibe with our latest Spotify playlist below.

Ayra Starr feat. Asake, “Goodbye (Warm Up)”  

Ayra Starr bids adieu to a manipulative ex on the glimmering kiss-off “Goodbye (Warm Up),” the Asake-assisted highlight from her resilient sophomore album The Year I Turned 21. P2J’s jazzy street pop production puts extra pep in Starr’s step, as lyrics like “I do not accept your apology” and “Gave you the cold shoulder, I really hope you freeze” deftly kick her ex to the curb. Meanwhile, Asake brushes off any woman with bad energy on his swaggering verse.  

Azanti & PsychoYP, “I Know”  

Azanti & PsychoYP create the ultimate laid-back vibe on “I Know,” from their joint album YP & Azanti, Vol. 2. Malik Bawa’s funky, guitar-driven production assuages both artists during their fight for peace of mind, with PsychoYP also recognizing his phone’s focus mode as an essential weapon, as Azanti croons, “I’m trying to focus on me this time, I’m trying to save myself.” The track’s repetitive groove and chorus that just rolls off the tongue make “I Know” the perfect soundtrack for your next summer roadtrip when you’re getting away to find your own peace of mind.  

Tems, “Wickedest”  

Tems didn’t come to play on “Wickedest” from her bold debut album Born in the Wild. The introductory sample of Ivorian zouglou group Magic System’s 1999 Pan-African smash “1er Gaou” evokes a nostalgic party vibe for her own dancefloor number that’s been bringing out Tems’ wickedest whine all around the world in her ongoing tour. But from the moment she launches into the first verse, Tems asserts her dominance and stays in the lane she’s set forth for herself, brushing past those who want to try her (a reference to her 2019 single “Try Me”) and sticking to the ones who bring her up and get down with her.  

Tyler ICU & DJ Maphorisa feat. Masterpiece YVK, Ceeka RSA, M.J, Silas Africa & Al Xapo, “Manzi Nte” 

After scoring a nomination for best new international act at the 2024 BET Awards and helming one of Rihanna’s favorite songs of 2023, “Mnike” – which recently got a remix featuring Shallipopi and Lojay – Tyler ICU has been on fire. And what better way to keep the heat up this summer than to drop another fire song with “Manzi Nte,” alongside DJ Maphorisa featuring Masterpiece YVK, Ceeka RSA, M.J, Silas Africa and Al Xapo. The music video makes “Manzi Nte” out to be a wet-and-wild anthem – which is fitting given the song’s title translates to water it in Zulu, according to a press release. And the amapiano smash’s rattling production has been powering up participants of the accompanying dance challenge, which Maphorisa demonstrated on TikTok.  

Leather Park, Odunsi (The Engine) & Cruel Santino, “CHANEL”  

Odunsi (The Engine) and Cruel Santino’s numerous collaborations have already proven that they’re the funkiest duo, and “CHANEL” from the former’s Leather Park (Vol. 1) album is a sparkling addition to their collection. In the same vein of Bryson Tiller’s “Whatever She Wants,” fulfilling a woman’s designer dreams is the key to unlocking her heart – and Odunsi and Santi flex how well-equipped they are to buy her Chanel, Bottega and anything else she desires. Odunsi also sharpens his alté production skills on “CHANEL” with kaleidoscopic synth patterns, crisp shakers and rollicking percussion that create the track’s irresistible bounce.

King Promise feat. Shallipopi, “Continental”

In a month brimming with great albums from high-profile talents — Ayra Starr, Tems and Victony among them — King Promise may have delivered the best of all of them. The album’s two big prior singles, “Terminator” and “Paris,” previously appeared in this column, but “Continental,” with its assist from one of the of-the-moment street talents in Shallipopi, sits alongside them as one of the best songs of the past 18 months, combining Promise’s natural melodic feel with his memorable hooks to land a breezy summer hit.

Rema & Shallipopi, “BENIN BOYS”

Rema is coming off one of the biggest years of any African artist ever, with the mind-blowing success of “Calm Down” — and while this link up with the inescapable Shallipopi is unlikely to replicate that crossover smash’s No. 3 peak on the Billboard Hot 100, it’s another song that showcases the many sides of Rema’s artistry, which goes much deeper than the ear worm that was “Calm Down.” “BENIN BOYS” is much harder, with a driving log drum production that propels both artists forward, and is a formidable entry into each of their catalogs.

Lil Kesh, “Lifestyle”

Lil Kesh has one of the more distinctive styles among his contemporaries in the Nigerian pop scene, and “Lifestyle” fits perfectly into his oeuvre. With a soulful, soaring hook and an almost contemplative melody over an amapiano-esque production, Kesh lays out a carefree look at life in a track that’s perfect for the summertime. Kesh can pump out these types of tracks seemingly effortlessly, and the vibe is always right on point.

L.A.X & Magicsticks, “Loke”

Linking with one of the most in-demand producers on the continent, L.A.X delivers a contemplative vocal performance, riding high on carefully crafted melodies while Magicsticks deploys his trademark log drums and a reassuring organ chords. The effect is comforting, in a way, with L.A.X switching back and forth between English and Yoruba to spin his lyrics.

Victony, “Anita”

Victony’s album showcased his distinctive vocal talents; no one sounds like him, and his instantly-recognizable style is one of his best qualities as an artist. Another is his beat selection — and “Anita,” crafted by P2J, provides the perfect platform for an earworm of a track, which is just as catchy as his breakout hit “Soweto,” if not even moreso. It’s a standout on Stubborn, and one of the best songs of his career.

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